Looking for Our Silver Bullet — Innovate Around the Core

For the first few years of my work, I hesitated on telling new clients about my belief in long-term therapy. I worried they would freak out, think I was only trying to assure myself of work, and not buy into the idea. I was anxious about starting off and wasn’t quite sure how to sell folks on the idea of something long-term, and so I would shy away from the conversation.

Of course I believe in long-term therapy for many reasons. Primarily, though, because of its effectiveness at using the relational dynamic to get to the root of struggles and work change at a core level. I wasn’t content with bandaids and surface level change when those fixes, while effective, were sometimes situational and difficult to apply to all parts of life. I love the deep work, the messy heart level work.

And so in hopes of getting others intrigued and sold on this, I began taking the risk of telling potential clients this idea at the start. I assure them that it is their choice and they aren’t committing to any sort of long-term therapy while simultaneously sharing my heart for deep heart change that only comes through long standing relationship and work around the core parts of them. I emphasize the idea of getting to know them while sharing skills and practices along the way. I share my hopes in truly seeing and walking with them for more than a short season so the essence of who they are becomes clear.

Change of behavior is essential for change of heart. I so value sitting with new clients and probing with small inquiries related to small changes they can immediately put into practice. It is my honor and responsibility to provide the best questions and reflections, insights and ideas, that get folks thinking about why they do what they do. I love the practice of celebrating with others the ways they have taken risks or tried out a new practice. Having a front row seat to change is such a privilege.

Plenty of people are satisfied with this level change. In a lot of arenas, it’s really great work. It truly does lead to better lives for individuals and I am encouraged by the courage it takes to make and sustain these adjustments. For others though, this isn’t enough and heart level change is the goal. They long to innovate around the core, letting the effects of change spiderweb out and impact their daily living without the always conscious effort.

Innovation around the core is for the bravest of the brave—those willing to fall and stand again more times than they ever dreamed and those prepared to take a most honest look at themselves even when they are certain there are reflections they won’t like seeing. It is the practice of challenging ones very heart in hopes of healing and thriving. It is cleaning out the wound rather than covering it.

As you look toward change and growth, I encourage you to not ignore the core. It is the source of your strength and freedom, the well from which we draw when our backs feel up against the wall. It’s the hardest heart of the work that requires a willingness and invitation for God to move. Innovate here, where the effects are lasting and multiplied, for it’s freedom and fruitfulness is one that no one can take from you as you live anew.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

For more information on long-term therapy and core innovation, contact me!

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — Balance Intuition with Rigor

I often find myself giving a sigh and knowing laugh at the common tension found within the walls of the counseling office. “First thought wrong” coupled with “learning to trust yourself,” are two sentiments I share with folks on a regular basis, though in not so blunt terms. At first glance it may seem impossible for the two to co-exist. How can I learn to both not trust myself and to trust myself? When do I trust myself and when do I move on in a different direction or choice? And what if I get it wrong, trusting when I shouldn’t have and not trusting when I should? It is a bit confusing, even for me to explain.

Yet, as I wrestle with the tension these two ideas create, I find they bring about a perfect and freeing harmony, both in the counseling realm and outside the office in “real life.” Our first thoughts and ideas can be spot on. Our gut reaction can lead us to some amazing places, help us stay safe, or genuinely do the right thing. Trusting our intuition is important because it communicates to us about us. This is so important buecause our relationship with ourself is so important. It’s the one relationship we have our entire lives. Intuition is a gift to use and cherish.

However, intuition alone is rarely the only evidence or entire picture we ought to look at. Intuition can sometimes urge us to jump before looking, to act on feelings that may be based solely in fear or worry, excitement or pleasure. Our gut can urge us react based in survival rather than respond with clarity. First thought wrong is often first feeling wrong and an indication to pause, gather more information, and then proceed. The thoroughness, carefulness, meticulousness, and diligence that define rigor serve us.

And so it is with intuition and rigor.

We were created to have and develop both these pieces of us. Both intuition and rigor are vital to our experiences, our successes and failures, our relationships and endeavors. And at the crux of a balanced life is co-existence between these internal parts where communication is constant. It is finding balance between our intuition, what our gut says and pulls us towards, and rigor, the hard sought knowledge and intellect, that is essential for whole living.

Learning how to do this, accepting when we get it wrong, and getting back up to try again, well, these are the hard parts of walking the balanced life. Here isn’t the space to work that out, rather in invitation to play with and wrestle with the idea of balance. Most of us lean towards one way or another. We trust our gut come what may, or we trust hard work and the strict discipline we commit to. Often times we may even teeter-totter between the two in extreme ways. Finding balance requires an honest look at ourselves to see what we favor and looking at how that both blesses and burdens us. Then, and only then, can we begin the difficult work of finding the freeing place of balance.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

To dive more into a balanced relationship with intuition and rigor, contact me me today. 

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — Grow With Discipline

In high school, I grew seven inches between the start of my sophomore year and completion of my junior year. Seven. I went from one of the shortest girls on my softball team to one of the tallest. I was suddenly thrown from a wing player to a post player on my 1-19 sophomore basketball team. I had arms for days. (Still do) My shirt sleeves fit poorly. (Still do) My jeans were never near worn out before needing to purchase new ones. And as one friend later told me, I was “so lanky and awkward.”

Most growth, like physical growth, is often uncomfortable and cumbersome. It requires us to adjust our actions, attitudes, and abilities. It stretches us. It exhausts us. It excites us. Growth doesn’t allow us to stay put and stay the same. It has the potential to satisfy us, free us, and improve us. And for the most part, we all agree that growth is good.

So what’s this bit about growing with discipline? And why start here.

In his book, Onward, Howard Schultz discusses the seemingly reckless abandon with which Starbucks grew in the United States. It was fast and furious, similar to my abrupt 7-inch height change in high school. And for both Starbucks and myself, it was painful. Schultz continues in the book to describe the lessons in leadership he has taken from this growth. It changed him as a leader and it changed him as a person.

Amid many options, Merriam-Webster primarily defines discipline in the following way.

1a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order , b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior, c : self-control; 2: punishment; 3: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

I don’t presume to speak for Shultz and so inferring here, let’s agree that he might be referring to both the “self-control” and “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” definitions. Upon further look, self-control is further defined as, “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” And this seems to really hit the mark.

Growth must be accompanied by training and molding towards and in-line with moral character, because simply put, growth without restraint, especially as exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, or desires, is reckless. To allow impulse to lead growth can result in reckless irrationality. To allow emotions to navigate growth can result in reckless reactivity. To allow desires to dictate growth can result in reckless regret.

While some impulses are helpful and based on the need for survival, impulses when in relation to growth are often unhelpful. Impulses fail to take into account the logical and calculated, the long-term goals and associated necessary actions. Rather, they strive to keep the status quo and stay comfortable. They may dream and promise big with little ability to follow through. Impulses are exactly that, impulsive. The hard practice of disciple is essential to advantageous and upward growth. Quite possibly, the forfeiting of restraint over impulses, emotions, and desires quickly compromises the very growth one is hoping to gain.

So as you look toward growth, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, or otherwise, I encourage you to first look at the how of what you hope to do. Come up with a plan, a discipline, that will align you with the goals and values you desire to live by. Plan ahead regarding how you will overcome the temptations to sidestep that discipline. Stick with that discipline regardless of momentary discomfort. And enjoy the fruits of growing with discipline.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

To further this conversation on growth, contact me today for a free phone consult!

How We Relate to Pain

It seems that one thing most of us have in common is our desire to avoid pain. I see this with clients who so desperately want to change or heal while also desiring to avoid the extremely difficult work of unpacking and sorting through past pains and trauma. I see this with friends as they have stayed in relationships or with jobs they know are unhealthy but don’t want to face the pain of a breakup, possible rejection, and starting over.  And, I see this with myself as well, attempting to avoid pain by getting things “right” and doing what’s asked of me.

We don’t like pain. And of course, this is rational. This is normal. This is human.

This all came back to mind recently while we were taking a birthing class. Giving birth is a well known painful experience, yet it is one that people endure because the reward is great and the pain temporary. Clearly, no one in the class was caught off guard that labor and delivery will be painful. It is simply a given. Even amid this truth, our instructor went through the stages of labor acquainting and familiarizing us with the pain as much as possible. She recently gave us an acronym that I quickly stored away as something helpful both in and outside birthing prep.

P...purposeful. Pain is clearly purposeful in labor and delivery, serving as an indication and call to action,  but what about beyond? Most all pain serves a purpose and call to action. It indicates something is wrong. Physical pain prompts us to move our hand away from the stove or head to the doctor for our sprained ankle. Emotional pain can serve us similarly, motivating us to change our circumstances or relationships. And when this isn’t possible, it can push us to change ourselves. The key is allowing that motivation to move us towards healthy ways of change rather than avoidance and false fixes.

A…anticipated. Labor pain is anticipated and expected. Outside the hospital, pain must become a foreseen part of our existence. Though we all desire to avoid it if we are to create a more balanced relationship with pain we come to be less avoidant, upset, and caught off guard by it. I often tell clients that to be in relationship with others means you will get hurt. Not because people are intentionally out to get one another, rather because we are humans and we make mistakes, say things we regret, protect ourselves, and generally get it wrong at times. If we can learn to accept this pain alongside the benefits and joy of relationship with others, we can thrive in the give and take, the ebb and flow of human connection. Please know this is not a pass for abusive relationships, rather a recognition that it is normal to have feelings hurt in common misunderstandings.

I…intermittent. In labor, contractions start and stop and eventually cease upon the birth of the baby. Similarly, pain most often comes and goes. While some pain is chronic, the pain of both birth and growth is temporary, intense and momentary, allowing for periods of relief and recovery. As is the pain of healing—it will not last forever. Rather, it will be significant and then lessen as it is worked through. Similarly, the other pains in our lives will almost always have periods of intensity and then periods at a lower volume, where we can tune into other things in our world besides the pain.

N…normal. Labor and delivery pain is normal—as is pain in general. Back in November, I wrote about pain and how pain will find us. Because pain is normal, we do not have to run head-on into it. Rather, perhaps we do not avoid pain at all costs. Pain often times isn’t good or bad, it just is. It’s a part of our experience and a part of our life. If we can come to believe we are not given the choice of pain or no pain over the course of our lifetime, we can allow it more easily into our experience.

To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this acronym. The therapist in me loves it and tries to live it and invite others to live it as well. It makes sense and helps me make sense of the pain in my own life. There is another part of me, though, that hates it. I want to keep doing what I’m doing because avoiding pain is more comfortable. I don’t want to normalize and anticipate pain, I don’t want to find purpose in it, I simply want to avoid it. And still, I know I can’t. It only takes a day or two of trying this old way and I find myself once again wrestling to accept the existence of pain in my experience and world because my attempts to avoid it have failed me.

So perhaps we must learn new ways to accept pain as necessary for the lives we want to live and the men and women we want to be. We must practice ways to endure pain for the pleasure, peace, and possibility that lie on the other side. Perhaps pain isn’t the worst of all possible options. As I head into my final trimester of pregnancy, there is discomfort in sleep, in sitting, in eating, and in the Dallas summer heat. And to be sure, there is a much larger physical pain to come in a few short months. But oh the possibility and promise that lies on the other side of that pain. For the temporary pain of birth seems momentary amid meeting our kiddo and doing life together.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Check out other blogs relating to pain and acceptance or start sorting through your own pain by contacting me today.

Letting Balls Drop

I had a position at a job once in which the demands for my work outnumbered my hours and abilities. All the items I was asked to do were important in their own right, yet I was simply unable to do all of them without burning at both ends and sacrificing my own sense of self and well-being. I became frustrated. I felt disrespected. Resentment was building in my heart with anger towards my supervisor. Above all, I was tired. I wanted to do a good job, truly, and yet I was stretched too thin. I talked with a mentor at the time and his reply both terrified and freed me.

“Lindsay, you have to let some balls drop.”

As someone who works hard and wants to do the best job I can at all times, the idea of intentionally letting things drop seemed out of the question. How could I just choose not to do a part of my work? People depend on me, I may get in trouble with my boss, I don’t like negating my responsibilities. I had adopted the attitude that it wasn’t my fault, there was simply too much to do, and that the demands would have to change in order for my attitude and well-being to change. It wasn’t up to me, the job and expectations had to change.

However, this belief system flew in the face of my agency and choice. The resentment I was inwardly brewing was impacting only me and keeping my hands tied. I wasn’t getting more of my life back with this demeanor–quite the opposite actually. I quickly became aware that changing my attitude and actions was the only move towards power and freedom that I actually had.

So I asked my friend a bit more about this idea of letting balls drop. Questions like what if I drop the wrong ones or get in trouble with management? What if folks are upset at me and families I work with lose trust in my abilities? He kindly walked me through this, reminding me to trust myself in knowing which balls were droppable and which I must keep juggling. He challenged my beliefs that perhaps by letting balls drop, those above me might take action upon seeing the workload is too much for one person. He encouraged me to choose my needs and a work/life balance, which means both things have to give a little.

Part of my story is my need to get things right and the idea of choosing to let them be wrong was extremely uncomfortable at first. I knew there would be questions from my boss, and there were. I knew I would be tempted to blame and defend myself, and I was. I knew it would be uncomfortable to simply acknowledge I couldn’t get to it all, and it was. And in it all I hoped it would be ok, and ultimately it really was.

I got some life back. I found myself less tired and frustrated. My arms were no longer tied up in exhaustive juggling, rather more open to critically deciding what would make it onto my plate and what would have to be dropped. In some ways it was a practice of boundaries. In some ways it was a practice of self-care. In some ways it was a practice of my needs being of equal importance to others. And in all ways it was a practice of balance, choice, and empowerment.

As I write this, the critic in my own head desires to explain my absence from blogging over the past month. And the truth may be that my reasons are legitimate and worthy. However, I also acknowledge that though those are true, I fully decided to let this ball drop because ultimately it was droppable. It’s a hobby I enjoy and hope is of some value to others, yet it is droppable when I start juggling too much. And in the end, it is freeing to hold that truth tightest.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

For more, contact me!

People Like Yourself

In her 2010 book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes, “To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards.” The book, written as a series of practices that provide insight into the gifts that come from doing things imperfectly, offers it’s readers a new way of interacting with themselves. Perhaps learning to be kind, gentler, and forgiving, to actually treat yourself like you like yourself amid the perfect standards of the day, is actually the way to be more fully human.

In a world full of competition and pursuing excellence, it is easy to feel like one isn’t enough, doesn’t measure up, and at the end of the day really doesn’t matter. These thoughts and practices of our day quickly take a toll on our well being, moving from passing thoughts to sticky reminders of why we shouldn’t like ourselves. In 2018, it seems the chase for the newer model this and the more expensive that keeps us striving and we often allow our negative thoughts to serve as motivation. And though this sort of criticism and shame may work to help us with short-term change, we often soon become fed up and therefore give up before we’ve even given ourselves a fair shot.

Taking this into mind alongside our desire to avoid arrogance and presumptuousness, finding a balanced middle path where we can accept, and even like, ourselves while still allowing for the reality of the work to be done can be challenging at best. To admit and find peace in the truth that we can affectionately care for ourselves, not be selfish, and still be in process, well that all seems much harder to put into practice than the beauty of our opening quote. So how do we do it? How do we genuinely learn to like ourselves in a healthy way?

There is no easy answer, no quick change that allows us to live this way, but rather a series of small choices that help us to live life liking ourselves rather than beating ourselves up. Here are few practical and tangible ways we can separate from the burdens of life and live in ways that celebrate the men and women we are.

  1. Come up with a mantra to live by. We all have negative thoughts about ourselves swirling about our minds, waiting to appear in both the good and bad. We must be intentional to fight these sticky thoughts and putting new thoughts in is a surprisingly easy place to start. A mantra of mine I stole from a colleague. It has appeared throughout my blog and points me back to my values and worth. This saying, “show up as the woman you want to be,” encourages and motivates me onward rather than keeping me stuck in self-defeating thoughts. I encourage you to come up with a quick sound bite that you can hold onto that points you back towards liking yourself.
  2. Write personal daily affirmations. Try starting your day with writing present-tense “I” statements about character traits or qualities in yourself that you are proud of or simply like. Make the words into art or collect images that represent those parts of you. Whatever you do, keep them positive and keep them current.
  3. Do something that supports your values every single day. One of the quickest ways to self-defeat is acting outside our values. When we act differently than what our values suggest, we become duplicitous. This is extremely difficult for us to manage and often results in a negative downward loop of actions confirming negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves. However, by acting on our values, even amid the judgmental thoughts and feelings, we can learn to like ourselves more and more, trusting the feelings and thoughts will eventually catch up. (If you aren’t sure where to begin, try identifying some of the values that guide your life. Google “Value Card Sort” for an array of different and free online resources to help get you started!)
  4. Be kind to yourself. I end many therapy sessions reminding folks to be kind to themselves because I know from my own experience, that the minute you leave you are more determined than ever to change and get things right. And then we don’t because we are humans and perfection is impossible. We must be able to practice kindness and grace in our mistakes, failures, and growth rather than condemning and punishing ourselves. Change takes courage and bravery, acknowledge that in yourself through kindness and mercy.
  5. Start a gratitude practice. It’s tricky for us to hold onto the anger and the burdens of our day when we take time to focus our heads and hearts on the things we are grateful for. Maybe it’s jotting down three unique things every night that you were thankful for that day or doing a more formal practice like The 5-Minute Journal — whatever the practice, try sticking to it for at least a month, jumping right back in if you forget a day or two.

Working on more closely living our values, solving our own problems, getting in the grit, and taking responsibility are all wonderful practices in life. Practices I encourage you to continue. The striving in our lives towards the beauty of perfection is rarely the issue. However, the ways in which we do so, cutting ourselves down and our self-worth often taking the hit, lead to the opposite outcomes. And these outcomes create hopelessness, helplessness, and discontent rather than spurring us onward.

As I close, I invite you to reflect on the relationship you have with yourself. How would you describe the relationship and how is life within that relationship? Take notice if it is one of kindness and compassion, mercy and grace, that allows you to honestly say you like yourself. And if it is, well done and keep up the hard and fruitful work. If it is not and you would like that to change, consider one or two of the practices above that you would be willing to incorporate starting today.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

For more information on living a life of liking yourself, contact me today.

Presence

The idea of the gift of presence has been in my heart for the past few weeks, even coming up on last weeks blog. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, my personal desire to pull my past into my present with those who have gifted me with presence. Or, with the passing of the holidays and extended time off, presence seems more easily available over coffee or lunch. Or maybe it’s because amid my introverted nature, I long for deep connection, conversation, and communion. And while I’m not sure the motivation, I am sure about my passionate value of presence.

As I sat down to write, my dog reminded me of the need for presence. Stella is what veterinarians call a “social eater,” meaning she really isn’t interested in regular feeding times but rather eating around when she can remain socially connected to me. It took us quite a bit of time to figure out her routine, as she would willingly forego food for days so long as to stay connected to her humans. The easy solution of letting her free-feed 24/7 has become difficult with the inclusion of a dog food-eating cat into our family. And so, in order to gift her with my presence during eating, she is currently on the floor less than 2 feet from where I sit writing on the couch, happily munching away while I protect her from the cat.

The gift of presence with Stella seems silly and at times inconvenient. I’m sure it has cost me some undue anxiety and concern, alongside the need to rearrange my living situation and daily schedule. It certainly has received it’s fair share of questions and judgments from others. And while I’d like to say, oh that’s just the cost of presence for a picky spoiled dog (fair enough) I think there are plenty of similarities in gifting others with our presence as well. Maybe gifting our family and friends with our presence is just as involved as gifting my “social eater” pup.

So what exactly is presence? I admit that while Stella ate, I continued typing and paid little attention to her. This presence may nearly always work with dogs but often much less so with our friends, our spouses, and our children. Because presence is a feeling and a reality, a way of being and a way of being with the other, it requires some degree of intentionality. For, it’s not only our existence that matters but also the manner in which we do so.

To be present is to be invested in seeing and knowing the other.

Let that sink in because it is not just a nice idea. It is a way of connecting and doing relationship. Seeing and knowing the other means asking the hard questions and leaning in; it’s getting involved when maybe you’d rather not. It’s seeing past outward appearance and glimpsing the heart in love and care. It’s a way of knowing beyond facts and data that requires time and tension, awkwardness and availability.

Hopefully, this idea of seeing and knowing, along with being seen and known, makes your heart stir. It’s scary, it’s risky, and it’s chalk full of vulnerability. It risks exposure and rejection. Presence comes with fear and uncertainty riding shotgun and a desire to steer you away. And yet, it is where shame dies, where belonging begins, and where freedom is found. Presence, being seen and known and seeing and knowing, is at the center of healing, reconciliation, and redemption. It’s meeting the other in the depths and saying I’m with you. It’s reserving judgment and instead offering yourself.

This is, of course, a two-way street, with the gift of presence allowing for movement in the first place. The gift of time and possible inconvenience, of attention and rearranged schedules or priorities, all accompany and preceded seeing and knowing. There is intentionality behind creating space between you and another, be it getting coffee, having date nights, or co-creating homework projects. The true gift of presence never just happens because one must pursue the other, leaning in and learning them, seeing and knowing them through questions and shared experiences.

Biblically speaking, to be known by God is one of greatest gifts of relationship with Him. As Curt Thompson writes in The Soul of Shame, “Paul indicates that being known by God is the signpost that we love him. And to be known necessarily means that we are willing to expose each part of us, especially those parts that feel most hidden and that carry the most shame… In contrast, to be known is necessarily to be vulnerable, to open ourselves to God’s love. It is to be asked questions. To be observed. To be seen.”

This model of vulnerability, of being seen and known, serves as an example of how we thrive relationally. Though counterintuitive to risk betrayal, isolation, and abandonment, only by risking these, are we best connected and free to live fully. From our thriving, we also practice knowing and pursuing, we practice asking, listening, and seeing, and we practice the sometimes inconvenient and often uncomfortable willingness to be present for others.

Presence. The work of getting involved in others lives in a way that meets, encourages, and honors them. It is one thing I hold fast to offering all my clients; the willingness to see the ugly, sit in the dark, and be with. But it’s also the way I live outside the office doors. Having both those who know me well, the good, bad, and ugly, and those who I deeply know and see, isn’t optional for—which is perhaps why I am so passionate about presence.

While you ponder the idea of presence in your life, I encourage you to do so this within the counsel of others. This isn’t an invitation to be seen and known by all, nor a suggestion to extend your presence to those who may not respect you in the process. It is, however, a hope for you to look inward and outward as to how you can offer yourself and your attention fully, with cell phones away, TV off, emails ignored, and others postponed, to the ones in your life that need to be seen, heard, and known, and to those in your life who desire presence with you.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

For more info on presence, please contact me today.